Apple v. The FBI
(8 pages of text)
Case (Pub Mat)
As the world continues its digital evolution, more aspects of our lives are dependent on data and digital devices. This shift has required technology manufacturers to emphasize encryption and robust security in their evolving designs. While this pursuit of security is necessary to keep users' critical personal information safe, criminals and terrorist organizations are using these same security technologies to make it difficult or even impossible for authorities to access that data. Law enforcement agencies claim that they need the technical ability to lawfully access digital data, while many technology and privacy advocates hold that authorities should never, under any circumstances, force companies to weaken or circumvent security.
The conflict between privacy and security is examined in this case, starting with the 2016 legal challenge when, after a mass shooting, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation sought a court order directing Apple, Inc. to create software that would unlock the suspect's iPhone. Although that legal challenge was dismissed, the issues remain live and pressing.
This case was developed for graduate courses in business and science dealing with information systems and strategies in technology. Because undergraduate students are likely familiar with the issue and the product, they should also find the case accessible.
In information systems courses, instructors could focus on the technical options available to the FBI in decrypting the contents of a smartphone and the design options available to Apple to close these potential vulnerabilities. Detailed technical content is provided in the case appendix.
In public policy courses, the case can be used to highlight the implications for law enforcement agencies that are challenged in accessing digital devices, which are increasingly a source of evidentiary information.
In public relations and business strategy courses, instructors could illustrate the strategic, policy, and communications issues that companies and governments face when attempting to balance privacy concerns with security and law enforcement functions in a rapidly evolving technology market.
In business law courses, the case provides a current example of how rapidly changing technology tends to outstrip the ability of the law to keep up and how prior constraints may be applied in ways both appropriate and less so to new situations.
The case can be used to help students appreciate three themes:
- Security and privacy in information technologies are increasingly important, especially in the context of a mobile society using mobile devices.
- Balancing privacy interests with security and law enforcement is a demanding and ongoing public policy issue.
- Developing technology often requires that industrial firms balance their competitive concerns with public relations issues.
Information, Media & Telecommunications
United States, Large, 2016
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